Dennis E. Greenhouse, Director of the Community Capacity Development Office.
In August, I had the great pleasure and honor of participating in my first National Conference for CCDO. Over the past 15 months, I have visited many Weed and Seed sites and very much appreciate the outstanding work being done. However, the CCDO conference brought home to me the extent that the Weed and Seed strategy has been embraced nationally.
It was extremely gratifying to meet so many site coordinators together in one place and join in their enthusiasm to learn and network. Thanks to you, Weed and Seed is alive and well. I never cease to be impressed with the sophistication of law enforcement and community policing initiatives that target gangs, guns, and drugs, reclaiming the streets in Weed and Seed neighborhoods. I never grow tired of hearing stories of the many lives transformed as Safe Havens deliver services to young people and families struggling to survive.
Our staff put together a fantastic program this year with sessions that introduced the latest in technology for combating crime, comprehensive law enforcement strategies that are delivering results, opportunities for professional development and strengthening your Weed and Seed strategies, and asset development practices that will support your public safety efforts while helping to take families out of poverty.
For me a highlight of this conference was welcoming this year's new Weed and Seed sites. We currently have 281 sites and will soon have 319 as new grants are awarded. I would like to thank all of the new sites for applying and the CCDO staff, particularly the program managers, for their great work in handling their current load while reviewing more than 100 new applications and preparing for the conference. We look forward to working with each of these new Weed and Seed partners.
Partnerships have always been a key strategy for sustainability in Weed and Seed. Every CCDO partnershipwhether it is with each local Weed and Seed site or with state or federal agenciesis built on one compelling common mission: to increase public safety and create safer, thriving communities. Through these partnerships, CCDO has increased its impact on our designated Weed and Seed neighborhoods by generating increased resources and technical assistance; innovation in systems design and service delivery; increased coordination of local, state, and federal stakeholders with more participation by tribal governments; improved multiagency collaboration; and better leveraging of existing resources.
Our state and federal partnerships are characterized by defined roles and responsibilities, concrete commitments from each partner, and clearly articulated performance measures or outcomes. Such partnerships give us our most successful programs, such as the Public Housing Safety Initiative, the Drug Education for Youth Program, the VISTA Reentry project, and our asset development partnerships.
Locally, we seek to encourage a wide range of participation and collaboration with each Weed and Seed strategy site. Steering Committees are especially fruitful in this regard because their members represent the range of stakeholders on both the weeding and seeding sides of the equation. They bring existing resources and capacity to sites to help them focus on the gaps in service and the unmet needs of their neighborhoods.
Another highlight of the conference was the announcement of this year's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) results. As predicted, it was the most successful year yet. This past tax season, the 102 Weed and Seed VITA sites completed 24,400 returns worth $28 million in tax refunds. Add to this an additional value of $7 million in savings in tax preparation fees, which our Weed and Seed residents would have paid out of their own pockets without the VITAs.
This year's National Conference was a great success, and I'm already looking forward to next year. But of course it would be nothing without you, our Weed and Seed partners. It is because of your efforts and diligence that we are here. CCDO functions to serve you, to build your capacity to tackle local challenges, and to promote the exciting innovations and effective models you are implementing and sustaining. I encourage you to continue your hard work reclaiming our nation's neighborhoods, and CCDO pledges to continue supporting you every step of the way.
Dennis E. Greenhouse
Community Capacity Development Office